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Literature / Raising Steam

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"The aristocrats, if such they could be called, generally hated the whole concept of the train on the basis that it would encourage the lower classes to move about and not always be available."

Released on November 7th, 2013. The fortieth Discworld novel (following Snuff), and the third in the Moist von Lipwig sequence (following Making Money). The penultimate entry in the Discworld series, and last published in the author's lifetime, due to Terry Pratchett's Author Existence Failure a year and a half later. Followed by The Shepherd's Crown, published posthumously.

From the Amazon blurb:

To the consternation of the patrician, Lord Vetinari, a new invention has arrived in Ankh-Morpork — a great clanging monster of a machine that harnesses the power of all of the elements: earth, air, fire and water. This being Ankh-Morpork, it's soon drawing astonished crowds, some of whom caught the zeitgeist early and arrive armed with notepads and very sensible rainwear.

Moist von Lipwig is not a man who enjoys hard work — as master of the Post Office, the Mint and the Royal Bank his input is, of course, vital... but largely dependent on words, which are fortunately not very heavy and don't always need greasing. However, he does enjoy being alive, which makes a new job offer from Vetinari hard to refuse...


Steam is rising over Discworld, driven by Mister Simnel, the man wi' t'flat cap and sliding rule who has an interesting arrangement with the sine and cosine. Moist will have to grapple with gallons of grease, goblins, a fat controller with a history of throwing employees down the stairs and some very angry dwarfs if he's going to stop it all going off the rails...


  • A Day in the Limelight: Harry King, who's been a minor character in several books, is one of the main characters in this one. Rufus Drumknott is also unusually present, and in fact receives the most physical description he's ever gotten.
  • Aborted Arc: Apparently what's happened to the original plot for this book involving Moist taking over the Ankh-Morpork Tax Office, which was foreshadowed by the end of Making Money and the original working title of this book (see below). Also the Undertaking, a massive civic infrastructure upgrade including a subway system which drove the last Moist book, is nowhere mentioned.
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  • Adult Fear: Harry King, a doting father and grandfather, has an understandable reaction to news of a near-accident involving two children listening to the rails for the sounds of the oncoming train.
  • Alpha Strike: The Grags throw all of their forces into the final attack on the train, making the actual civil war a complete Curb-Stomp Battle.
  • Ancient Tradition: Perhaps. Rather mysteriously, Lu-Tze meets up with Ridcully, and after mentioning that the History Monks aren't sure about the railway, says that the rest of "the circle" is. Whether this indicates that the Almighty Janitor and the first amongst wizards are part of some hidden group guiding Discworld history on a level even Lord Vetinari doesn't suspect will, sadly, never be known.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The last (main continuity) Discworld novel ends on this note, rather than a Grand Finale. Raising Steam touches base with many of the Discworld's Loads and Loads of Characters, definitively blows apart Medieval Stasis (which had been crumbling recently anyway), and looks to the future with an optimistic air.
  • Answers to the Name of God: When the Marquis des Aix en Pains first meets Of The Twilight The Darkness, he exclaims "Mon Dieu!", to which Of The Twilight The Darkness calmly replies "Not a god, Mister Mark-kee, just a goblin". (Which in context has a definite undercurrent of "And yes, I can speak Quirmian".)
  • Author Appeal: The descriptions make clear how much Terry Pratchett loves trains (he describes his research visits in the cover sleeve biography). Indeed most of the book is devoted simply to describing how the Discworld train service developed and wonder it inspired, with the central drama not setting in until two-thirds of the way through.
  • Author Vocabulary Calendar: Boiler explosions (and on one occasion, a boomerang attack) almost always use a verbal form of "scythe" in their description. As well, quote blocks are often preceded, especially in the first half of the book, with the phrase "[character] burst out laughing", verging on Said Bookism.
  • Automaton Horses: Played with. Moist is granted the use of a rare and valuable golem horse—a quite literal automaton—but the lack of "all those fussing little rituals that defined horsemanship" rather unnerves him. He feels that having a mount that can travel faster than any living animal without ever tiring or needing food or water, and which just stands there dutifully when not in use, is getting something for nothing; that all that power should come at some kind of price. What makes it even weirder for him is that like all golems, the horse is entirely sentient, but still doesn't mind its lot—when he tells it to go frolic in a field when he's not using it, it takes this as an order.
  • Awesomeness-Induced Amnesia: Moist von Lipwig kills several dwarven terrorists in a blind rage after finding out that they'd killed some of the railway workers. Afterwards, he has no memory of doing it. He also has no clear recollection of what happened between realizing two kids were about to be hit by a train and waking up in hospital being called a hero.
  • Badass Bystander: Several terrorist attacks are thwarted by civilians, most of them using improvised weapons, attacking the supposedly elite Delvers and winning.
  • Berserk Button: Goblins consider their names to be a part of themselves, so calling one by a nickname or part of their full name is like slapping them in the face. Though younger goblins aren't that fussed about it, and one—a goblin special Watchman—allows a nickname on the logic that if they're in a fight, his human partner will want something shorter to shout.
  • The Berserker: Moist, up until now an Actual Pacifist, turns out to be one when he's finally forced into combat. A Goblin potion got him started, but in his rage he kills three battle hardened Dwarf assassins and blacks out entirely afterwards. In later battles he relies on Confusion Fu and his greater knowledge of the train.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Quirm's leader is named Jean Némard- which, if read in French, sounds like J'en ai marre - "I've had enough of this!".note 
  • Brain Bleach: Moist requires some after accidentally considering the possibility that goblin women have breast milk.
  • Busman's Holiday: At the end Vimes cites this as a reason not to go on another family vacation. His wife just thinks the inevitable crime will keep him entertained.
  • Call-Back:
    • Vimes scares some dwarfs into telling everything they know by simply showing the mark of the Summoning Dark on his arm.
    • Something very difficult is proverbially compared to getting a donkey down from a minaret. This term previously appeared in Jingo, in which Lord Vetinari did exactly that.
  • Calling Your Attacks: A rather Justified example, when Detritus shouts "PIECEMAKER!" when firing the Piecemaker. People need to know when he does that so they can get out of the way.
  • The Cameo: Many characters appear in asides and references. The University Wizards and Lu-Tze both get mini-chapters that don't really serve the plot and are only there for additional flavour.
  • Character Development: Drumknott, a character who has been regarded in-universe as having no discernable personality at all, falls in love with the railroad. Vetinari is a bit alarmed.
  • Confusion Fu: On the rare instances Moist is called on to fight he finds chaotic approaches seem to work, on the basis if he doesn't know what he will do next his opponent won't either.
  • Continuity Drift: In Going Postal, Adora Belle displays no particular knowledge or interest in how the Clacks work (at least when she's around POV character Moist.) Now she's an enthusiast who has been up in the towers since infancy. Oddly, the scene which creates this drift is completely extraneous to the plot. She did have this trait in the Sky1 adaptation, though.
  • Continuity Nod: This book is the uncontested champion for "most continuity nods in one Discworld book".
    • The Dwarf Civil War that was averted in Thud! finally occurs, and the "Miracle of Koom Valley" that occurred in that book's climax is mentioned repeatedly. It is essentially a direct sequel.
    • Similarly, Vimes's actions in Snuff have a profound effect on the plot, due to the recent inclusion of Goblins into society.
    • The inventor of the steam engine is Dick Simnel, son of Ned Simnel, who notably failed to invent a steam engine in Reaper Man.
    • Dick mentions an Ephebian steam engine which blew up. This event was shown in Small Gods.
    • There's also a brief mention of the Nugganites smashing clacks towers.
    • The wizards of Unseen University go for a ride on Iron Girder, in part to declare her nonmagical. Rincewind is also mentioned, in a footnote.
    • Lu-tze makes a cameo appearance, paying a brief visit to his old friend Ridcully to talk about the dawning of the new age. Ridcully also actually mentions deja-fu, the martial art practiced by Lu-tze in Thief of Time.
    • The King of Lancre writes to request that the rail system be extended to his kingdom. Characters present note that Lancre is home to witches — and that one of said witches tend to fly up to the top of the clacks towers to have coffee with the operators. Fans speculate that this is Nanny Ogg — especially since Adora Belle says she's most likely to do it if the operators are young, human and male.
    • It's mentioned that Lady Margolotta has encouraged the vampires of Überwald to switch to coffee rather than blood, which Maladicta had done in Monstrous Regiment.
    • When outing herself as female, Queen Rhys mentions Queen Ynci of Lancre. If anyone present knows Ynci never existed, they don't call her out on it.
    • Moist is apparently yet another person who was traumatized by the picture of the jolly goblin when he was a child.
    • Near the end, Vetinari mentions that the world needs its shepherds, as well as its butchers.
    • Queen Keli makes her first appearance since Mort, although she doesn't get any lines.
    • There are quite a few mentions of micromail throughout the story, as well as Madame Sharn.
    • In Snuff, we have mention of a dwarf and a troll who have "set up house together". In Raising Steam, we get to see a relationship between a dwarf and a troll get started.
    • The towns of Zemphis and Ohulan Cutash are mentioned for the first time since Equal Rites, as is the Fiddler's Riddle, although it seems to have improved since Esk was there.
    • Charlie from The Truth makes a brief appearance.
    • There's a reference to a MacSweeney Dynasty vase.
    • This is the second time a prototype invention with a mind of its own has surreptitiously killed a dwarf, albeit with better cause this time.
    • Several locations from previous books also appear in the book, including the Forest of Skund (with an observation that a Wizard may fall on your head), Scrote and several places from The Fifth Elephant such as the Wilinus Pass and Bonk. Even more that aren't mentioned appear on the map at the front of the book.
    • The idea of the steam train is described as another Wild Idea, as in Moving Pictures (and its means of taking root is described in Sourcery), but this one actually succeeds in the long run.
    • Mr Trooper apparently still asks after Moist's well-being. Vetinari comments that he never forgets a neck.
    • A footnote mentions a group of old men reaching the top of Cori Celesti and dying.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: The Kitten Punishment. The offender is locked in an iron maiden with as many kittens as can comfortably fit in there. If any of the kittens sound upset, the iron maiden is opened long enough for the offender to be hit over the head with a club.
  • Cool Train: Iron Girder, of course.
  • Covers Always Lie: The UK cover, as seen above, is fine, but the US cover shows a quarter-sized train with a unidentifiable assortment of riders being held up by a young goat sitting on the tracks, with grags lurking in the shadows nearby. A goat-herder does make a brief appearance in the novel, but just as a awe-struck witness as the train whizzes by.
    • The US paperback cover is much better. It shows Moist and Of The Twilight the Darkness posing dramatically on the front of the Iron Girder as it goes through what looks like a valley, which doesn't happen in the book, but at least could happen.
  • Cruel Mercy: Rhys leaves Ardent alive, but only so his fate can be decided by a jury selected from the families of his victims.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: Tak is turned into this for the purposes of the plot, as the rogue Grags use him as justification for their crimes. That this is a massive misrepresentation according to all the other dwarves just adds to the analogy.
  • Decoy Convoy: When a civil war erupts in Dwarfdom and the safety of the legitimate Dwarf monarch has to be assured, several royal decoys are sent out to confuse the issue and to draw the rebel forces into ambushes; while the rebels are wasting time and energy on the fakes, the actual Low Monarch is safely aboard a train and is halfway there before the usurping faction catches on.
  • Discreet Drink Disposal: The landowners that Moist has to negotiate with in order to get permission to build the railway through their lands keep plying him with drink during the negotiations in the hopes that he'll be too drunk to negotiate well. Moist sets up a tube-and-bladder rig in his coat to stash the drinks without consuming them, and ends up presenting Harry King with a crate of hot water bottles full of expensive liquor when he gets back to Ankh-Morpork.
  • Ditzy Genius: Averted with Dick Simnel, who points out that the only reason he's mastered steam, and not been turned into pink mist like his dad, is because he pays very close attention to all the numbers and tests his ideas very thoroughly. And while he's not a businessman, he's clever enough to avoid the business mistakes the Dearhearts did.
    • He's also no fool when questioned by the press, and frequently sidesteps any "gotcha" questions they try to throw at him
  • The Dreaded: Vimes, the "legendary Blackboard Monitor", has become this to the grags, in part because of the scar of the Summoning Dark on his wrist.
  • Dude, Where's My Reward?: Vetinari compensates Moist for his efforts by... allowing him to continue living. Moist is actually okay with this, and after all, he did get to dance on a speeding locomotive, so maybe it was Worth It after all.
  • Everything's Deader with Zombies: One potential railway route is rejected for being infested with zombies.
    • There's also a mention of Reg Shoe getting his fingers caught in a train window, leading to the creation of emergency cable to pull to stop the train
  • Exact Words: Vetinari does this on purpose for the sake of plausible deniability. Of particular note is when he says he'd execute Moist if he found any evidence of Moist using the city's golem reserve.
  • End of an Age / Dawn of an Era: Considering the sheer number of continuity nods and call backs, as well as the wrapping up of several storylines (one spanning over the course of 5+ novels) this could be seen as the end of an era of the medieval disc and the start of the modern disc. On a more somber note, this is the last book published during Terry Pratchett's lifetime, and the last but one (posthumously published) Discworld book, as his daughter has stated she will not be continuing the series (rather, she will act as guardian of her father's legacy).
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • Part of the plot involves dwarf extremists attacking dwarf and non-dwarf alike because they aren't "true dwarfs".
    • Some people still haven't adjusted to goblins being recognized in society. Moist himself included, but he makes an effort to get past this, in part because his wife allows a family of them to live on their roof. He's also helped along by his frequent interactions with Of The Twilight the Darkness, who's essentially a goblin version of himself.
  • Foil: Dick to Leonard of Quirm; the latter is a dreamer, while the former is a realist. Though Leonard is likely smarter than Dick by a long shot (Vetinari even mentions Leonard had already figured out how to make a steam engine), Dick is far more focused then Leonard, which lets him develop his ideas far further than Leonard would. Moreover, Leonard is hopelessly naive in the ways of the world (which is part of the reason why he's locked up), whereas Dick turns out to be intuitively savvy when it comes to knowing whom to trust.
    • Moist and Vimes, two of Vetinari's most important subordinates (and certainly the ones we know the most about) are foils to each other - Moist is lazy and a champion delegator and Vimes is a workaholic control freak; Vimes is straight as an arrow and Moist is completely bent; Vimes hates titles and honours and Vetinari showers him with them, while Moist would quite like to be rewarded but only ever receives a continued stay of execution.
    • Moist to Of The Twilight the Darkness, who it is frequently pointed out is essentially a goblin version of Moist
  • Foot Note Fever: As per usual for Discworld, there are fully eighty-one footnotes.
  • Foreshadowing: Readers should already have known that Rhys/Blodwen was female, so Mrs Simnel's behaviour towards her was clear foreshadowing to the King later revealing herself to be a Queen. However, the way Mrs Simnel knew (she's not an expert in dwarf gender, but she is an expert in pregnancy) foreshadows The Reveal that Rhys is pregnant.
  • For Science!: The reason that students at the Cabbage Research Institute worked out a way to launch a cabbage five hundred yards into the air using only its own juices.
  • Freudian Trio: We have Moist, Harry King and Mister Simnel taking the three roles
    • Simnel is the Superego; an engineer who tries to file everything into its proper slot and is entirely out in left field when things don't go that way.
    • Harry, with his drive towards getting the railway idea off the ground and his gung-ho attitude in defending it, is the Id.
    • Moist, as the Ego, is the one charged by Vetinari to keep things running smoothly.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Goblins turn out to be a race of tinkerers that put dwarfs to shame. At the end of a book, one has invented the bicycle, and Vetinari refers him to Mr Thunderbolt to secure a patent.
  • Gender Reveal: Readers of previous books might remember that King Rhys Rhysson is actually female, and Moist himself figures it out part way through the book. After the grag extremists are taken care of, she declares her true gender to the assembled dwarfs, and pronounces herself Queen.
    • In the process, Aeron's gender as a male is also proven, simply by how he steps up to defend his wife and child-to-be.
  • Genre Savvy: Moist and Dick figure out what's going on with Iron Girder's strange behavior almost immediately.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: It's not exactly prayer or belief, but the reverence and respect held by so many people for Iron Girder results in her becoming a goddess.
  • Groin Attack: Moist does this a couple times (once hoping that the dwarf he's kicking is male) and it's the traditional attack method of goblins.
  • Happily Married: Moist and Adora, largely because they are both too busy to see each other very often (we are told the key to a happy marriage is seperate bathrooms). They do make the most of their time together, however, especially when the train brings fresh strawberries and goblin potions to set the mood.
  • Here We Go Again!: At the very end of the book, a goblin shows his new invention to Vetinari, a pedal powered, two wheeled vehicle. Vetinari refers him to Mr Thunderbolt to secure a patent.
  • Hypocritical Humor: The little old ladies who think New Technology is Evil, and send Vetinari clacks messages on the subject.
    • The Goblins who treat shortening or altering their name (like nicknames) as Berserk Button insist on calling Moist "Slightly Damp" because it infuriates him.
  • In Which a Trope Is Described: Averted for the first time in a Moist von Lipwig book, possibly because the real focal point of the book is the railway itself: Moist is just one of many, many people who work to bring it about.
  • I'd Tell You, but Then I'd Have to Kill You: Played with: Vetinari makes a few revelations to Moist von Lipwig, and then mentions that if the details of the conversation ever get out, well...
  • Insistent Terminology: Calling Iron Girder "her" rather than "it" becomes standard practice, for no apparent reason. Turns out to be accurate, as she received so much attention from Dick in particular and society in general that she became a goddess.
  • Interspecies Romance:
    • A dwarf and a human fall in love and get married. Except on their wedding day, extremist grags launch an attack on the church, and the Dwarf bride is killed.
    • Nobby still has his goblin girlfriend, Shine of the Rainbow, from Snuff. People think she's throwing herself away on him.
    • Dopey Docson, a male dwarf, and Crackle, a female troll, meet up on the trainline around midway through the book and start having an affair, due to dissatisfaction with their former partners and recognizing a kindred spirit in each other - a Shout-Out to Brief Encounter.
  • Iron Maiden: A prisoner is kept in a (spikeless) iron maiden with several kittens. If the torturer drops by and doesn't hear contented purring, he opens it and whacks the prisoner over the head.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Adora Belle is as cranky as ever, but is still clearly a very good person deep down.
    • Harry King comes off as a sleazy businessman, but he passes up the opportunity to swindle Dick Simnel out of the profits from the steam engine, is horrified when he learns that children were almost killed in a train accident, and goes ballistic when the enemy extremists kill some of his employees. Moist notes that Harry is always grumbling about how much things cost, but simultaneously puts a significant amount of money into ensuring his employees are well taken care of
  • King Incognito: In the build up to the book's climax, there is mention of a "legendary" stoker named Blake, who can win a fight against any of the others (which they do in their spare time). He turns out to be Vetinari himself, who left a body double in Ankh-Morpork so that he could help ensure the success of Iron Girder's emergency run to Bonk. He expresses a desire to assume the identity again, as he enjoys the job.
    • Rhys assumes a few disguises when it becomes necessary to smuggle the Low King back to Schmaltzberg. He later mentions that he attended a Dwarf fashion show in Ankh-Morpork incognito.
  • Lazy Bum: It's noted that despite being the Postmaster and Vice Chairman of the Bank, Moist doesn't actually do any work. He makes up for it by being incredibly charming, and making an effort to remember each of his employee's names and the names of their families, and this in itself causes everyone to work twice as hard.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Traditional dwarfs don't much like the idea of a human/dwarf marriage. Although the only traditional dwarf who actually lives in the community it takes place in is even more against extremist dwarfs killing people at a wedding.
    • Note that the marriage in question could also be allegorical of a same-sex relationship, what with the consensus in the community that it doesn't matter if they can't have children since they love each other and can always adopt.
  • Manly Tears: King goes from rage into full Inelegant Blubbering when he learns some of his employees have been murdered.
  • Meaningful Name: "Iron Girder" sounds a bit strange if one thinks of a girder as a supporting beam, but the word comes from "gird" meaning to span or surround (compare girdle, a kind of belt). Iron Girder is the representative entity of the railway, an iron band destined to span and connect the world.
  • Men Are Uncultured: Discussed by Harry King as he and his wife move up Ankh-Morpork's social circles. He hates it.
    "Got another bloody civic thing on tonight, Effie just thrives on them. I told her I'm busy, what with dealing with the railway, but she's determined to make a better man of me. And all this business about what knife and fork you eat from, it's a deliberate puzzle set out to make a simple bloke like me feel like a stranger."
  • Motor Mouth: Mr Thunderbolt, to an extent. He speaks paragraphs at a time, but he is also so clear and eloquent that nobody is willing to interrupt him, and there are no questions to ask him when he's done talking.
  • Mugging the Monster: A very common Discworld trope is taken, perhaps, to its ultimate height, as bandits unwisely attempt to rob Lord Vetinari's coach.
    • It's actually lampshaded by Vetinari. Drumknott points out that it was a very dark night and since Vetinari's crest, prominently displayed on the side of the coach, is black on black, they can be forgiven for thinking it was just some random coach.
    • Later on two unfortunate bands of grags attack two decoy coaches that they think are carrying King Rhys Rhysson. One contains a whole bunch of Harry King's toughs the other contains Cheery Littlebottom and several well-armed dwarf Watch officers. Both groups regret it almost immediately
  • My God, What Have I Done?: After Moist points out what would have happened if her plan went awry, the little girl who blocked the train tracks with debris wets herself with horror. Moist also takes a moment to tell her that her creativity would serve her much better writing penny dreadfuls, and smooths things over with her father.
  • Nay-Theist: Simnel professes to not believe in magic, but follows up by wondering whether magic believes in Iron Girder, subsequent to a saboteurs inexplicable death during an attempt to disable Iron Girder.
  • New Technology is Evil:
    • One of the obstacles the steam engine and rail system need to overcome is claims of various detrimental effects. Fortunately, most of these claims are ridiculous, and Dick and Harry are a very responsible engineer and businessman respectively, so they are able to put most worries to rest.
    • Vetinari himself is rather apprehensive of new technology, like in The Truth, because of his past experience. He's come around by the end of the book, though, to the point he gleefully celebrates workshop tinkerers everywhere.
  • Noble Bigot: At the interspecies wedding, one of the guests is a highly traditional dwarf who hates that kind of thing but nevertheless shows up very politely dressed for the ceremony. Luckily for the other more liberal guests, what traditionalist dwarfs consider "politely dressed" is what humans would call "heavily armed".
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Lady Georgina Bradshaw, a recent widow, has decided to travel the railways. A conversation with Moist leads to the idea of her writing a travel diary, which Moist can get published, detailing tourist attractions, accomodation, etc. Clearly a Spear Counterpart of George Bradshaw, the de rigeur writer of European travel guides in the times just before World War I.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Averted in the development of the railway. Dick plans everything out and tests everything thoroughly, and prototypes all his new ideas on the Iron Girder first. He even blows up a few boilers and derails a train on purpose just to test what happens.
  • N-Word Privileges: "Lawn-ornament', a slur for Dwarfs so offensive a non-dwarf using it is legally considered a suicide, gets tossed out in a dwarf meeting when a grag insults miners.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Dick Simnel admits to being a fairly simple minded person, but anyone that tries to take advantage of this runs into a rather sharper intellect than they might expect. He explains to Harry King at one point that he uses it as a Secret Test of Character: When he meets King, he says that he doesn't know anything about business and will do whatever King says; that King warns him against that and does his best to give him a fair deal is the proof Simnel needs that King's worth dealing with.
  • The Omniscient Council of Vagueness: Ridcully and Lu-tze's scene reveals they are both members of one of these, but all they're seen doing is deciding not to interfere with the new technology.
  • Oop North: Dick Simnel has a definite Northern English accent. Whilst the odd word from Geordie, Cumbrian and Yorkshire slang pops up, a skilled ear will detect it's a phonetic representation of a Lancashire accent. One place in particular, actually: Bolton. Repeated uses of the word "Gradely!" even identify a real-life Dick Simnel: steeplejack turned steam engine restorer and TV star Fred Dibnah. "Gradely!" was something of a catchphrase.
    • The dialect even finds its way into the book's blurb, as quoted above, with him being described as the "man wi' t'flat cap".
  • Our Goblins Are Different: The goblins come into their own in this book, showing off a previously unknown knack for machinery, allowing them to leap headlong into a niche that's only just starting to be developed.
  • Pink Mist: The inevitable end of anyone caught in a boiler explosion. Superheated steam does this to a person.
  • Playing Drunk: A lot of landowners tried to get Moist drunk while he was negotiating a right-of-way for the railroad through their lands. Moist accepted the drinks, poured them down a rubber hose and bladder arrangement he had hidden under his coat and continued the negotiations perfectly sober, while acting drunk. After returning to Ankh-Morpork, he gave a crate full of hot water bottles filled to the brim with expensive liquors to Harry King to distribute among his workers.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: A small business asks for a way to operate two trains on a single track safely, Simnel's crew provides a token system that prevents the train from going if there's no token. Naturally, someone in middle management thinks to improve on this by putting in another token, which results in a railway accident.
  • Precision F-Strike: Amusingly averted, the map in the front of the book contains an Effing Forest which leads to some entertaining wood based puns later on.
  • Punny Name: As usual in Discworld, this time we get the Quirmian town of Aix en Pains. You can read that several ways:
    • In archaic French: "Water in bread".
    • To an English-speaking eye: a phonetic variation of "Aches and Pains".
    • Or better yet, you can mix the two: speaking it aloud (or listening to the audiobook recording by Stephen Briggs) you get a mix of English and French - "Eggs on/en pain" - eggs on bread, or, for those used to listening in two languages at once and adapting sense accordingly, eggs on toast. This fits in beautifully with the first introduction to the Marquis: he is married to a Morporkian woman and presents a banquet of fusion cuisine, literally wedding the Quirmian and Morporkian (French and English) into a shouldn't-work-but-it-does meal.
    • It's possibly a reference to Terry Pratchett's earlier Johnny Maxwell Trilogy, where the same name is used for the town that Blackbury is twinned with.
  • A Pupil of Mine Until He Turned to Evil: It's revealed that Ardent was once Albrecht Albrechtson's protege; Albrecht apparently taught Ardent everything he knows (though not everything Albrecht knows). However, even at his most ultraconservative, Albrecht was a committed dwarf patriot who was utterly loyal to King Rhys, even if they didn't agree on much (and he seems to have mellowed considerably by this book). Ardent, on the other hand, is a fanatical terrorist who will cheerfully murder anyone whose views differ from his own for being un-dwarfish, and intends to seize the Scone of Stone by force.
  • Rail Enthusiast:
    • Some of the crowds who come and see the engine are already "armed with notepads and very sensible rainwear".
    • Drumknott of all people becomes one of the first and most enthusiastic.
    • By the end, even Vetinari.
  • Railroad Baron: Sir Harry King, who already had the cigar.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Vimes, as always. He concedes that Moist probably really has put his criminal lifestyle behind him, and commends him for fighting off some dwarf extremists - though he adds (with a wink) a parody of the standard "you should have let the police handle it" routine.
  • Renegade Splinter Faction: The Grag terrorists absolutely enrage most of the dwarf conservatives, who call for their deaths.
  • Retcon: Diamond trolls are supposed to be extremely rare, so much so that even most Trolls consider them myths, and non-trolls don't have any knowledge of them, with Mr Shine having to travel everywhere in disguise in Thud!, but Thunderbolt is a diamond troll and a long-standing and highly visible member of the Lawyers' Guild. His uniqueness goes largely unremarked upon.
    • In fairness, Koom Valley was several years ago by this point, and several precious mineral trolls have been mentioned, including the viceroy of the king who is made of BLACK diamond, which is several times much rarer that clear.
  • The Reveal: Rhys Rhysson declares herself Queen to all dwarfs. Not quite big news, as those who read previous books will know this already, and Moist himself already knows. But then...
    Rhys: I'm looking for peace for all the world and specifically for myself and my child.
  • Revealing Cover-Up: The Grags at one point track the heroes by noting where their agents have gone silent.
  • Sapient Steed:
    • It turns out the golem horses of Um are not mentally any different from other golems. It takes a while for Moist to realize this might be the case, but when he confirms it, he orders his to go roll around in a meadow or something, because he feels he has to give something back to a horse he can't feed. Interestingly, the reason they were assumed not to be sentient is the humanoid golems they were discovered with aren't and can only follow orders.
    • Iron Girder sometimes behaves in such a way that Moist speculates she might be alive. It turns out, not only has she gained sapience, she has ascended to godhood, due to representing the railway itself in the minds of nearly everyone.
      • This is a Brick Joke: first dropped on the very first page, but as it is dropped from the outer limits of the Discworld atmosphere, it only impacts near the end, where the insubstantial "nothing" of a rogue idea finds form as Iron Goddess.
  • Sequence Breaking: The Time Monks are startled and alarmed by the appearance of steam power before it is 'steam engine time' as they put it.
  • Shout-Out: aplenty.
    • To 1970's Australian cop show Boney. Chief Constable Feeney employs a constable from a formerly despised minority group whose full name is a lot longer than "Boney". Compare this to the Alice Springs police force, who employed an Aboriginal copper who solved crimes through native insight and superlative tracking and hunting skills.
    • When entrepreneurs start making model railways, Sir Harry is delighted to be immortalised as the controller, but his wife complains that the model is too fat.
    • Edith Nesmith, the young girl who wants to be a hero of the railway by preventing an accident.
    • The bit with Dopey Docson and Crackle is basically Brief Encounter with a happy ending.
    • Dopey Docson, for that matter. Along with the pre-existing Bashfull Bashfullsson.
    • When the Low Queen openly admits to Moist that she is female, Moist's first words are: "Well, nobody's perfect, your majesty."
    • The character of Mrs Bradshaw is a reference to the well known Bradshaw's series of railway timetables and tourist guides.
    • Sir Harry and his wife have a definite Maggie and Jiggs vibe going on, especially when she starts throwing expensive vases.
  • Shown Their Work: Pratchett puts in a fair bit of detail about how the railway and steam engines work.
  • Square Race, Round Class: Discussed. Just because Golems and Trolls are the best at hard labor doesn't mean they're any more inclined to want those jobs than anyone else, and members of every race are establishing themselves in every field. Particularly, a troll hairdresser is mentioned, and a supporting character is Mr. Thunderbolt, a troll lawyer.
  • Squirrels in My Pants: Goblins employ this trope as a combat tactic, to the audible dismay of their opponents.
  • Stealth Insult: Moist says his soul needs a wash and brush up after dealing with some of Ankh Morpork's land owners. Vetinari's response begins "Ah, soul".
  • Super Prototype: Iron Girder is always better than all the other engines, because Dick uses her to test his new ideas before making new engines that incorporate them.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The dim-witted blacksmith Jed, who thinks he can build his own steam engine because he's "smarter than a kettle". It gets himself and his brother killed in a steam explosion, prompting Dick Simnel to start an academy for people wishing to learn how to build steam engines.
    • Also the bandits who early on in the book attempt to ambush the coach of a certain highly skilled Assassin. They call themselves "assassins" - without realising (as the occupant of the coach remarks) the significance of that capital letter...
  • Took a Level in Badass: Moist engages in wilful violence for the first time in this book, and does surprisingly well.
  • Trainstopping: Constable Bluejohn, a troll even bigger than Detritus, stops the train he's on by reaching out a hand and grabbing the cliffside.
  • Traintop Battle: Well, this book was hardly going to be written without one. Moist is especially excited about it.
  • Try to Fit THAT on a Business Card!: It turns out Vetinari has actually run out of titles to give Vimes. He still gives him a medal for his actions.
  • Turn Out Like His Father: Dick Simnel, whose dad Ned died in a cloud of superheated vapor trying to build a steam engine. His mother begged him not to play with steam, but he's determined to conquer where his father failed, through his knowing of the sine and the cosine, and the sliding rule.
  • Uncertified Expert: The engineering genius who brings the first steam trains to Ankh-Morpork runs into bother when the Guild of Artificiers protest that he is self-taught and not a Guild member - so if he has never been apprenticed himself, how can he legally train others to build and maintain a railway system?
  • Unobtainium: Sorortanium, whose name means "sister of iron". It happens to be what micromail is made of. The last (seen) incarnation of Iron Girder has an engine made of an alloy with sorortanium in it, allowing it to shrug off thrown boulders.
  • Wedding Smashers: Extremist grags attack an inter-species wedding, killing the bride.
  • Worth It: After all is said and done, Moist decides that even though he didn't get any compensation, the adventure was worth it because he got to dance on a speeding locomotive.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The extremist grags routinely abduct non-traditionalist dwarfs, interrogate them for information, then send them on their way with a bag of gold... only to kill them before they leave the room. After all, they're not true dwarfs, so they're the enemy.

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